The government has so far spent 225 billion forints (EUR 630.3m) on buying protective equipment, building a container hospital and making other preparations in connection with the novel coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in parliament.
Orbán dismissed a remark by conservative Jobbik’s Péter Jakab, who slammed the government’s epidemic response bill as the prime minister’s “coronation”. And responding to Democratic Coalition MP Gergely Arató’s criticism of the government’s handling of the epidemic, Orbán said: “Everyone should calm down. The government’s powers are no threat to you or democracy.”
The prime minister noted that 15 people have died from the virus so far, adding that their average age was 72. Altogether 447 people have been confirmed as testing positive for the virus in the country so far, 16 of whom have severe underlying illnesses. A total of 103 of the confirmed cases do not require treatment and 279 are asymptomatic, he said. Hungary has “deployed the necessary hospital capacities for treating patients,” Orbán said. So far, 13,301 samples have been tested in seven laboratories, he said. Orbán said Hungary had “nothing to be ashamed of” regarding its handling of the virus, arguing that the government had acted more swiftly to introduce the necessary response measures than many other countries.
Responding to a question from the Socialist Party’s Tamás Harangozó as to whether the government would use its emergency powers to raise wages in the health-care and social sectors and advance pensioners their payments, Orbán said the government will outline Hungary’s “most comprehensive economic stimulus action plan of all time” on April 6 or 7. Asked whether the government would uphold the state of emergency after the epidemic subsides in order to stabilise the economy, Orbán said that under the law passed on Monday, he personally would “not have the power to extend anything”. The prime minister stressed that parliament alone would have the power to decide when the state of emergency ends.
Reacting to the opposition Párbeszéd party’s questions on whether the government planned compensation for anyone who loses their job or earns below 100,000 forints (EUR 280), Orbán said the government was working to ensure jobs and “decent wages”, and the action plan being drawn up would mean “everyone will have a job”. Orbán said that since coming to power in 2010, the Fidesz government had “very nearly made good on its promise” to create one million jobs in ten years, yet, he added, the opposition just sneered at the promise at the time.
Green LMP’s László Lóránt Keresztes called on the prime minister to provide information and resources for local authorities facing new tasks due to coronavirus. Orbán said the local epidemic response bodies are the forums for local leaders to disseminate information and make decisions.
Asked by Jobbik MP György László Lukács about the anticipated duration of the epidemic, Orbán said it was “impossible to say”. The priority, he said, is to slow down the spread of the virus in order to ease pressure on the health-care system.
Regarding infections among health-care staff, Orbán said infected doctors were being replaced by resident doctors for the most part, and those above 65 were being separated from Covid-19 patients. In answer to another question, Orbán said infections of health-care staff “are to be expected”.